TE TEXAS b H server A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Publisher: Ronnie Dugger Editor: David Armstrong Managing Editor: Brett Campbell Associate Editor: Scott Henson Copy Editors: Roxanne Bogucka, Amy Root Mexico City Correspondent: Barbara Belejack Capitol Correspondent: Lisbeth Lipari Editorial Intern: Tracy Shuford Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Betty Brink, Warren Burnett, Jo Clifton, Terry FitzPatrick, Gregg Franzwa, James Harrington, Bill Helmer, Ellen Hosmer, Steven Kellman, Michael King, Mary Lenz, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Greg Moses, Debbie Nathan, Gary Pomerantz, Lawrence Walsh, Jennifer Wong. Editorial Advisory Board: Frances Barton, Austin; Elroy Bode, Kerrville; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Cambridge, Mass; Bob Eckhardt, Washington, D.C.; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; Ruperto Garcia, Austin; John Kenneth Galbraith, Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Oxford, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Austin; James Presley, Texarkana; Susan Reid, Austin; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Contributing Photographers: Bill Albrecht, Vic Hinterlang, Alan Pogue. Contributing Artists: Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Dan Hubig, Pat Johnson, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Carlos Lowry, Ben Sargent, Dan Thibodeau, Gail Woods, Matt Wuerker. Managing Publisher: Cliff Olofson Subscription Manager: Stefan Wanstrom Special Projects Director: Bill Simmons Development Consultant: Frances Barton SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year $27. two years $48, three years $69. Full-time students $15 per year. Back issues $3 Prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Any current subscriber who finds the price a burden should say so at renewal time; no one need forgo reading the Observer simply because of the cost: biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues in January and July \(25 Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THETEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street. Austin, Texas 78701. Debating Public Education The Observer is very savvy when it comes to analyzing the political economy of war or the machinations by those in power behind the Savings & Loan debacle, but your articles on education have been disappointing in their lack of analysis of the political economy of schools and the concomitant machinations in the militaryindustrial-educational complex. To put it lightly, the Observer’s trust in an “equalized” education is misplaced. Whatever is finally approved by the courts will require more centralization by a mediocre elite in Austin. Even if there are some positive results from “equalization,” trust in a hierarchical “mediocracy” is anti-democratic and elitist. Instead of trusting “professional educators,” the Observer should be leading the debate in this state on education. One, why should people finance a system that is by any fair standard a failure? Just look at the figures. Forty percent of students are “in-school” dropouts, making Cs but graduating. Thirty percent make Ds and Fs, while more than a third drop out. Of the “good” third who make As and Bs, about half will drop out of college. \(NASSP Bulletin, makes these figures even more disturbing is that due to the reality of class in this country, most people are paying money to subsidize the education of a minority of well-off kids while their own children are branded failures in the schools. But not only are kids dropping out, even the majority of teachers will drop out after 10 years of teaching. Two, since it’s obvious the schools have a hard time teaching most kids let alone deciding what education is, there needs to be grass roots debate on “the aims of education.” Communities should be granted power to shape their educational aims with or without the advice of “educational professionals.” Third, what kind of political system can we imagine that would give power to communities without surrendering the schools to every community’s elite? Fourth, if at least one of our schools’ purposes is to train people for the workforce, then is the 6 or 7 periods a day that junior and senior high school students spend largely learning skills they will never use in the workforce, a good investment in time and resources? Fifth, is it even right to train students for “upward mobility in mainstream society?” Can training students to take part in an economy that encourages waste and destroys the ecosystem be a remotely moral activity? I do not wish to suggest that these are the only questions worth debating, but they are a start. I do know that to talk about whether or not students improve on any given battery of meaning less, standardized tests, or whether teachers’ salaries and professional status should be raised begs the question. All these “reforms” are only designed to feed the dinosaur called school. And finally, giving more money to poor districts without the poor having the power to decide what kind of education they want is a cruel hoax to both the poor and those who sincerely want to help them. Let the debate begin! Kenneth Wheatcroft-Pardue Cypress Stick to Texas I must write to heartily endorse Don Silver’s letter of today’s issue [TO, 5/17/91]. I am not a liberal, and in fact have been known to vote Republican at times. I have however subscribed for several years because as Silver noted, you usually provide some really revealing and factual information regarding the idiotic and sometimes dangerous shenanigans taking place in Texas. The thing I admire is that you are biased and are proud of it, but you are generally factual. But, please stick to Texas. In Mexico, Latin America, LALA Land and NOW there are troubles aplenty. Leave their problems to someone else to expose, please stick to substantive political issues relevant to the interest of all Texans. George Wehner Seguin Sharing the Blame While reading the recent “Special Enviro Issue,” I’m glad we’re learning about this.” Now we can monitor it, and maybe begin to control it. Then my mind jumped to a contrast. I recall the many times I’ve seen people dump the oil from a engine oil change down a storm drain, or I see empty cans and a black stain on the ground at a roadside rest stop. And I think about poorly tuned cars \(my own could do with a ring job, probare out of the room, air conditioners with leaky gaskets, lignite-fired electricity-generation plants. And I think about all the extra insecticides and herbicides that go onto lawns, then end up being washed “away.” The pin-point-on-amap, high-level pollution sites probably pale in comparison to the general backgound of pollution whose rise we all contribute to blindly but willfully. Arthur W. Browning Tulsa, Oklahoma DIALOGUE 2 JULY 12, 1991
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